By Devjyot Ghoshal and Rajendra Jadhav
NEWDELHI/MUMBAI (Reuters) – India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to sweep two state polls next week, the first since Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landslide win in a parliamentary election in May, a leading pollster said.
The BJP is set to comfortably win elections in the western state of Maharashtra and the northern state of Haryana, leaving the main opposition Congress party trailing, according to a survey by polling agency CVoter released on Friday.
CVoter estimates that a BJP-led alliance in Maharashtra will pick up 194 of the 288 seats on offer. In Haryana, the party is predicted to win 83 of the state’s 90 seats, leaving just three for Congress.
Voting in the elections will be held on Monday with the results expected to be announced on Thursday.
Several Congress party officials conceded they had all but given up hope of posing a serious challenge to Modi and the BJP.
In particular, the resignation of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in July, after weeks of drama following the loss to the BJP in the general election, has sown internal confusion, triggering infighting and exits, two party officials in New Delhi said.
“It’s going to be a rout, and it will deflate morale even further,” one of the officials said, referring to the state elections. “It’s like a slow-moving disaster.”
They requested anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to the media.
Pranav Jha, the secretary in charge of Congress’s communication department, said the party was undergoing a period of “cleansing and churning” and remained committed to taking on the BJP.
“The people of India…can see through the diversionary drama of the ruling party, and realise that jobs, economy and issues of farmers can only be put on track by the Congress party,” Jha told Reuters.
Modi, analysts say, has moved decisively, including withdrawing special rights for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state, and consolidating the BJP’s hold over India’s Hindu-majority electorate.
In Maharashtra, one of India’s most industrialised states which includes Mumbai, two Congress officials said the top leadership’s relative indifference and infighting had hurt their already weak campaign.
Congress’s state wing had asked for Gandhi, his mother and current party chief Sonia Gandhi, and his charismatic sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to join the campaign, one of the two officials said.
But only Rahul Gandhi came and spoke at a handful of rallies.
“Senior leaders from BJP have covered every district. They have been visiting Maharashtra for the last two months to build momentum,” said one Congress official, who is contesting the upcoming poll.
“There wasn’t any concrete effort from Congress leaders in New Delhi to give energy to our cadre,” he said.
The list of recent resignations from the party include Ashok Tanwar, Congress’s former chief in Haryana who quit earlier this month and is now campaigning against his old party.
“The state of affairs in the Congress party is so dire that the decision makers can’t win an election themselves, while the soldiers on ground who stay in touch with the masses are neglected,” Tanwar wrote in his resignation letter.
The situation has even riled Congress allies. Two leaders from the Nationalist Congress Party, which is in alliance with the Congress in Maharashtra, said their partner was slack.
“It looks like Congress is not very serious about the state elections,” one of the leaders said. “Congress is not in the picture. Congress leaders are not attacking the ruling party the way we expected.”
In New Delhi, Congress officials said there was a sense of inertia at the party headquarters, without any understanding of who will become president after Sonia Gandhi, who is only holding charge temporarily.
“Without a clear leadership, nothing is going to change,” one of the officials said, “If it continues like this, the party will fade away.”
(Reporting by Devjyot Ghoshal and Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Euan Rocha and Raju Gopalakrishnan)